New meningitis vaccine for babies could save thousands of lives

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A life-saving meningitis vaccine could be made available on the NHS.

The Department of Health said the Bexsero vaccine would be free on the NHS for babies after evidence showed it was effective at preventing potentially-fatal meningitis B in inflants.

The landmark decision means Britain is set to become the first country in the world to bring in a nationwide vaccination programme against the illness.

Prof John Watson, the government’s deputy chief medical officer, said “Infants under one year of age are most at risk of MenB and the number of cases peak at around five or six months of age.

“With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most make a full recovery. But it is fatal in about one in ten cases and can lead to long-term health problems such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.”

The government is in talks with drugs company Novartis to negotiate a cost-effective price for the vaccine.

Meningitis Now, the UK’s largest meningitis charity, said the vaccine could save thousands of lives.

Its founder Steve Dayman said: “This is the most monumental announcement in the fight against the disease in the 31 years I have campaigned to eradicate meningitis.”